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Probe launched into Grand Prix fire

BARCELONA, Spain, May 14 – Formula One’s ruling body the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on Monday confirmed it had launched an investigation into the cause of a fire in the Williams garage, injuring more than 30 people, following their victory in Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.

The FIA said in a statement that a total of 31 people were treated at the Circuit de Catalunya medical centre and that seven were transferred to local hospitals for special treatment for burns and smoke inhalation.

In the statement, the FIA said: “The flames were quickly brought under control and the FIA is collaborating closely with the Spanish authorities investigating this incident.”

The fire ignited about 90 minutes after Pastor Maldonado had claimed his maiden victory and the first by a Venezuelan.

It was the Williams’ team’s first win since the 2004 Brazilian Grand Prix and came on the weekend that team founder Sir Frank Williams had celebrated his 70th birthday at the circuit on Saturday.

The team were celebrating again on Sunday evening, but they were cut short by the blaze that is believed to have been started by a fuel leak at the back of the team garage while they were packing up.

Several Williams team members were injured as they fought the explosive blaze with members of other teams who joined them as a party, to mark the team’s first win in 132 races, was quickly ended.

Maldonado joined the rescue bid when Williams was quickly ushered away and the Venezuelan carried his 12-year-old cousin Manuel, whose broken right foot was in a protective casing, out of the garage on his shoulders.

One of the injured mechanics was airlifted to hospital in nearby Barcelona with serious burn wounds, according to a statement from the Catalan regional government. Unconfirmed reports claimed that he had suffered burns to 40 per cent of his body.

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The Williams team issued a statement and thanked all those in the paddock who rushed to their aid.

“The Williams F1 Team would like to thank all of the teams and the FIA for their support in this incident,” said the team.

The Force India team’s deputy team chief Bob Fearnley criticised the circuit staff for being too slow to react.

He said: “There’s no training, no procedures. I went down to see how my man is, and I had to fight my way in — We need to look seriously at the training of people at the circuits. I’m not impressed at all.”

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